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Advancing the Dialogue on Race

In 1903, W.E.B. DuBois warned that the problem of the twentieth century would be "the problem of the color-line." His words are just as incisive as we reach the twenty-first century. In fact, the National Panel guiding AAC&U's American Commitments Initiative has argued that race has been the "razor's edge" in our history, the topic that "most brutally cuts and divides us." As Diversity Digest has been reporting, higher education is already taking enormous steps, in the curriculum and co-curriculum alike, to address our nation's racial legacy and educate students who are both prepared and inspired to make a success of our multiracial democracy.

But the academy cannot do this work in isolation. Our neighboring communities must believe in what we are doing. Community partners must work with us to translate knowledge into new attitudes and new efforts to forge a creatively multiracial America.

Racial Legacies and Learning: An American Dialogue

In this context, I am extremely proud to announce that, with the strong support of its Board of Directors, AAC&U is now launching an even more ambitious effort to foster campus-community learning about race in American society. This new initiative is organized around the question: "What should higher education be doing, with its local communities, to prepare graduates to address the legacies of racism and the opportunities for racial reconciliation in the United States?"

Through this initiative, AAC&U is working with colleges, universities, and community organizations across the country to organize dialogues and seminars that address the legacies and challenges of race in our past, present, and future.

The initiative will begin by involving campuses in a national Campus Week of Dialogue on Race from April 6 to 9 initiated by the President's Initiative on Race (PIR). The PIR is planning and encouraging several events including a meeting of educational leaders, a National Campus Town Hall Meeting, and a variety of events on campuses around the country. See page 2 for ways your campus can become involved.

AAC&U's initiative will culminate in a series of Campus-Community Study-Dialogues to be held in the fall of 1998 exploring new learning about racial legacies, challenges, and possibilities in American society. In partnership with participating campuses, AAC&U will report to the White House and to the higher education community both on community views about higher education's role in addressing racial legacies and on good practices of diversity learning and intergroup dialogue already developed at many colleges and universities.

We hope that you too will become part of this critical American dialogue.

Carol Geary Schneider
President, Association of American Colleges and Universities

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